Of The Climate And Houses In Flatland

: Flatland

As with you, so also with us, there are four points of the compass

North, South, East, and West.

There being no sun nor other heavenly bodies, it is impossible for us

to determine the North in the usual way; but we have a method of our

own. By a Law of Nature with us, there is a constant attraction to the

South; and, although in temperate climates this is very slight--so that

even a Woman in reasonable h
alth can journey several furlongs

northward without much difficulty--yet the hampering effort of the

southward attraction is quite sufficient to serve as a compass in most

parts of our earth. Moreover, the rain (which falls at stated

intervals) coming always from the North, is an additional assistance;

and in the towns we have the guidance of the houses, which of course

have their side-walls running for the most part North and South, so

that the roofs may keep off the rain from the North. In the country,

where there are no houses, the trunks of the trees serve as some sort

of guide. Altogether, we have not so much difficulty as might be

expected in determining our bearings.

Yet in our more temperate regions, in which the southward attraction is

hardly felt, walking sometimes in a perfectly desolate plain where

there have been no houses nor trees to guide me, I have been

occasionally compelled to remain stationary for hours together, waiting

till the rain came before continuing my journey. On the weak and aged,

and especially on delicate Females, the force of attraction tells much

more heavily than on the robust of the Male Sex, so that it is a point

of breeding, if you meet a Lady on the street, always to give her the

North side of the way--by no means an easy thing to do always at short

notice when you are in rude health and in a climate where it is

difficult to tell your North from your South.

Windows there are none in our houses: for the light comes to us alike

in our homes and out of them, by day and by night, equally at all times

and in all places, whence we know not. It was in old days, with our

learned men, an interesting and oft-investigate question, "What is the

origin of light?" and the solution of it has been repeatedly attempted,

with no other result than to crowd our lunatic asylums with the

would-be solvers. Hence, after fruitless attempts to suppress such

investigations indirectly by making them liable to a heavy tax, the

Legislature, in comparatively recent times, absolutely prohibited them.

I--alas, I alone in Flatland--know now only too well the true solution

of this mysterious problem; but my knowledge cannot be made

intelligible to a single one of my countrymen; and I am mocked at--I,

the sole possessor of the truths of Space and of the theory of the

introduction of Light from the world of three Dimensions--as if I were

the maddest of the mad! But a truce to these painful digressions: let

me return to our homes.

The most common form for the construction of a house is five-sided or

pentagonal, as in the annexed figure. The two Northern sides RO, OF,

constitute the roof, and for the most part have no doors; on the East

is a small door for the Women; on the West a much larger one for the

Men; the South side or floor is usually doorless.

Square and triangular houses are not allowed, and for this reason. The

angles of a Square (and still more those of an equilateral Triangle,)

being much more pointed than those of a Pentagon, and the lines of

inanimate objects (such as houses) being dimmer than the lines of Men

and Women, it follows that there is no little danger lest the points of

a square of triangular house residence might do serious injury to an

inconsiderate or perhaps absentminded traveller suddenly running

against them: and therefore, as early as the eleventh century of our

era, triangular houses were universally forbidden by Law, the only

exceptions being fortifications, powder-magazines, barracks, and other

state buildings, which is not desirable that the general public should

approach without circumspection.

At this period, square houses were still everywhere permitted, though

discouraged by a special tax. But, about three centuries afterwards,

the Law decided that in all towns containing a population above ten

thousand, the angle of a Pentagon was the smallest house-angle that

could be allowed consistently with the public safety. The good sense

of the community has seconded the efforts of the Legislature; and now,

even in the country, the pentagonal construction has superseded every

other. It is only now and then in some very remote and backward

agricultural district that an antiquarian may still discover a square